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Larry Madowo on Digital Migration (Oops!) – a hoi polloi response.


Larry Madowo has spoken on digital migration and as a Kenyan (who is a big Larry Madowo fan), I am perplexed.

For one, I am perplexed at his tone. As a public personality myself (okay, just on social media – and not nearly as big time as Larry), I know that it does not pay to talk down to people – whether they know the meaning of DVBT2 or not. In his blog post, he has chosen to take a condescending approach to explaining his company’s position. I am not sure whether his intention was to simply lash out at people and call the idiots (without using those words) or that he wanted to inform us with a view of gaining some public support. As I say, I am perplexed. I also have had cause to wonder why Larry is speaking so loudly on this issue, while his own CEO, Linus Gitahi is so conspicuously quiet on the issue. Linus tweets as @lgtwits. But this is besides the point and it is not my intention to join the ad hominem and attack Larry or anyone.

I read his blog post twice. I was hoping to gain a better understanding as to why the so called Analogue 3 (I got it from him) switched off their stations. I am no wiser. I have read the joint statement by the Analogue 3, which essentially states that the government through the Communication Authority broke into their transmission stations and carted away their analogue transmission equipment. They say that the government did so to force them to publish their content on the SIGNET and PANG set top boxes.

I don’t believe them.

I may not be a post-doctorate expert as Larry sarcastically lashes out, but here’s what I believe to be true.

  1. Digital Migration changes everything. Nothing in the media industry will remain the same – not even the mass appeal that Larry talks about. It is true that under the analogue regime Citizen TV, NTV and KTN (I don’t know about QTV) are the major players. After all, getting a TV station in the analogue regime has such a high barrier to entry because of cost. The competition therefore was other TV stations, namely Kiss TV and K24. The ones on Zuku, DSTV and other set top boxes was not even worth discussing.Suddenly, the big three find themselves having to compete with Winnie Mang’eni, who it seems broadcasts her Youtube show from her bedroom. Its not live, but all she needs is a good internet connection in addition to her phone and voila! she is streaming live. If she has an agreement with SIGNET or BAMBA TV or PANG’s Star Times she has a TV channel that can broadcast 24 hours a day. It should be noted that the price of a HD Web streaming camera has significantly dropped (see Amazon). A zuku home connection has also become massively affordable.Larry says that Dr. Ndemo told him that the competition in the electronic media industry is now about content. The question then becomes, does NTV, KTN, Citizen TV and QTV have the capacity to compete on this level? Do they have the flexibility to create shows that gain audiences and can compete with Winnie, Caroline Mutoko, Sharon Mundia, or even Molly’s World?
  2. The cheese has moved – so will the advertising dollars. Eyeballs will shift from the three (or four) stations that all showed generally the same thing – the same politically driven news at the same time, followed by the same kind of shows at the same time (everyone is showing a local production at the same time slot and everyone shows the same kind of south American telenovella or Nollywood movie at the same time). There has been little creativity or differentiation – except maybe for shows such as Larry’s the Trend (the likes of which I am not sure I have seen on TV). With the influx of the new TV stations, suddenly eyeballs will rove around looking for authenticity, differentiation, stimulation. And when niche TV stations start to show significant loyal following, marketers will be hard pressed not to follow the eyeballs. There is no cosmetic manufacturer who can scoff at Belle’s Africa who show a loyal following of 78,000 people.In some marketing book I read years ago, I found a quote that is attributed to John Wannamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Suddenly Kenyan advertisers can narrow these odds because they will know what most Kenyans are interested in and where they really are going. One little spoken off benefit of going digital is that it makes media monitor’s work even easier. In the same way that a mobile phone company can tell how many subscribers are currently making a call and which specific numbers are on call at a specific second, so will the digital TV stations. It will be child’s play to track which TV stations have the most viewership at which times and in fact it will even get easier to profile customers.If I like comedy and I switch from station to station watching mainly comedy shows, this is data that will be available to digital TV broadcasters and advertisers who can plan better how to show me feel-good ads that make me buy their products.
  3. The only people that will be hurt by the switch-off is the Analogue 3. Propaganda aside, the real situation is that the switch off by the big broadcasters helps all other players. Life after all, must go on. People are buying set top boxes both paid and not paid. All of the set top boxes have channels that are free to air. People will have stuff to watch. According to Caroline Mutoko, both viewers and advertisers are on the move already to Bamba TV and other places. My friends in advertising scoff at the idea that they will wait for the big stations to resolve their issues.The real thing for Larry and his colleagues to consider is this fictitious analogy.
    There was once a big restaurant in Nairobi where everyone went for long leisurely lunches. It was the envy of a bevy of other smaller restaurants that served good food too but that people didn’t know. One day, Mututho happened by and created a rule that outlawed long lunches, restricting them to 2 hours maximum. The big restaurant was upset – after all the longer people stayed the more they spent. “Ha!! does he know we are the main restaurant of this city? he must know people!” they huffed and decided to close the restaurant so that they can win public support. People had to eat at lunch time – two hours or not and so while the big restaurant was closed, they went and ate in the little restaurants around. Many discovered amazing food and new cuisine. Many discovered that little restaurants often offer personalised service too. After a few weeks, the big restaurant opened. Did people flock back? Some surely did. But everyone knew they had a choice – and they knew that on some days, they could taste other restaurants’ food too.
  4. Johnny come-lately misses the bus. Competition is good for us viewers, for advertisers and it is great for smaller broadcasters. I have my doubts about the Analogue 3’s ADN Set top boxes. When they come, if I have bought another set top box that gives me a wide array of content that I enjoy, am I likely to spend money on a new ADN box? Personally, I will not.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 20.14.31
Nation Media Group’s performance at the NSE this mont

I think the Analogue 3 have miscalculated. And the performance of their shares in the Nairobi stock Exchange may speak to the impact of this strategy.

I have a suspicion that given time, Larry Madowo may have to stop scoffing at the people. After all, in marketing we know that the customer is not an idiot, she is your (grand)mother.

Update: Caroline Mutoko echo’s what I was saying:

72 thoughts on “Larry Madowo on Digital Migration (Oops!) – a hoi polloi response.”

  1. larry shouldtrealise that there is more to life than the analogue 3…unfortunately,his head is buried in the sand.tumetoka analok>>>dichito

  2. Problem I have right now is what set box will finally be most suitable for me. For now I have @DStv_Kenya & internet WiFi @YouTube . I can relate to what u have said @alkags being in Marketing of Veterinary services. People move on. I remember the Mututho changes @alkags I wondered how u get to know how many watched #Oscars2015 ! or a certain #EPL football match #AFCON2015. u have said it. Now I know. I have also learnt @WinnieMangeni Hilarious. Still reading. I am learning a lot of stuff from your rebuttal of Larry M. For eg @BellesaAfrica just subscribed. Seen u @ConnieAluoch Awesome

  3. The thing that makes me excited about migration is digital equity. Look as a guy who grew up in the country side (ntv & ktn) decided that my area was not economically viable enough for briadcast. So we had to make do with KBC & Citizen (much later) and I had to contend with being the stupid fool against in highschool ( I take that on you). Now a guy in Wajir or Nyandarua for god's sake will be as informed as the average flippant Nairobi teen. I call that progress

  4. But that Mututho comment???? Totally off. You've written well about everything BUT THE ISSUES. Which are digital signals allocation, distributing body and digital broadcasters autonomy. Basically control of digital signals by unknown people.

  5. The switch off was good for us. Let us embrace digital migration at best. Competition, viewership loyalty and ratings are already changing drastically.

  6. The biggest mistake Kenyans make is that they take the opinions of the Larry's of this world too serious. Here is a guy incessantly trying to prove a point, but Kenyans are more intelligent than these media guys think. Rather than spend energy on propaganda and hollow homilies, the analogue 3 must now strategize and order for more floaters, the boat is sinking, on the shores people are trying to signal a warning but inside the ship they think the signal is an ululation.

  7. Whats sad as well is that Larry took it out on his followers. We watch Larry Madowo… not NTV. If Larry madowo moves to KTN, we will likely watch him there… if he then moves to Citizen all the same. Larry.. you are NOT NTV…and NTV is not Larry Madowo…. (unless you have gotten lots of shares). Either way… I believe your greatest revenue is from the ratings and the people you get to watch your show who drive up your earnings… not the technology they watch on… or the channel (if you post your videos on you blog it won't be DVBT2 or NTV). When the dust settles… there will be people having that bitter after taste as they watch Larry Madowo show. So for his own sake, his ratings etc… he shouldn't berate the people… discuss the issue objectively… and win the hearts of your audience. I also have no plans (or budget) for an ADN decoder. But I must say I have enough to watch already 😀

  8. Wonderfully done article. The only people that get destroyed by change and new inventions are those that resist them. Change can make or break; and the Analogue 3 have chosen the route of oblivion….. at last we can all breath!!

  9. We are all for migration to digital with all the befits that accrue. It is the way Kenya is carrying out its bit. End result like in Tanzania and others before it, a big percentage of viewers cannot watch any television which otherwise they have been for a long long time. They have to invest in new boxes, where is the money? The government seems to imagine that when they deny its citizens analogue, they will simply queue for the boxes. They will do other things. Since they raided the transmitters and carried away the gadgets, I haven't watched TV and I'm fine. As good as digitalising TV may be, government has goofed and denied its people their rights whatever anybody says.

  10. what i foresee is some CEOs being taken to task for making bad business calls…truth is Macharia is a lone ranger hence he can afford to fly off the handle whenever he wishes…however i cannot say that about Shollei and Linus….AGMs are coming, profits have plummeted, man hours have been wasted, the books dont look too good…questions will have to be answered….and finally Larry Madowo shut the F#@$k up…this war is way beyond your pay grade..

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